No briefing from the Minnesota DOH this week. Yay!!! But the national mood continues to be glum, even as Delta recedes, while school and booster terrorism pick up the slack. We need an exit plan, but unfortunately it is likely to be put together by the same people who did the exit from Afghanistan. Incompetent ideologues. A bad combination.
A tease for tomorrow, some interesting studies on Delta, viral loads, etc. Want to get it in a separate focused post.
Are teachers at higher risk of hospitalization or death from CV-19? No, according to this study from Scotland. (BMJ Article) Of course they aren’t, but it won’t stop teachers’ unions from causing all kinds of terrorism. The teachers were matched with other adults in the general population. Teachers actually had a lower risk of hospitalization. This also applied to their household members. Teaching actually appears to have a protective effect.
And there are always a few studies that get buried on my desk somewhere but are noteworthy. This study in Health Affairs treats is by authors who are so oblivious that they treat this as a positive. The presence of school mask mandates was associated with teachers’ unions. The study was done in Iowa and compared school districts with and without mandates. A better title would be “Teachers Unions Cause Child Abuse and Loss of Learning”. For some reason no analysis about whether there was any actual difference in cases. I assure you that that analysis if and when done would show no effect. (HA Article)
The Atlantic magazine used to be great, very contrarian, very thoughtful articles. Then it went full woke and Trump Derangement Syndrome and is now unreadable. But as with the similar New Yorker magazine, it too exemplifies cracks in the whacko woke mask religion, at least as applied to children. This story covers the harms masks cause children, especially in school. All of you fighting against this child abuse should copy this article and send it to your school boards and administrators. (Atlantic Article)
Technically, the US should be at population immunity based on the numbers reported in this study. People, as usual, often have an over-simplified notion of what that means. And there is confusion about the role of adaptive immunity in that population level immunity. I think it is apparent to people by now that adaptive immunity, whether by infection or vax, does not stop exposure or even “infection” but should limit infectiousness and severe disease. So at a population level, more and more immunity in the entire group will reduce cases to some extent, but it is unlikely to ever eliminate a respiratory virus. Increasing levels of immunity create fewer opportunities for infection and infectiousness, and eventually immunity reaches a level at which there may be occasional outbreaks and a background level of cases, but nothing notable. According to this study, from the CDC, using blood donation sampling, the overall level of prevalence of antibodies to CV-19 by the end of May in the US is at 20% from infection and a combined 83% between vax and infection. Among other things, this tells you that the ratio of detected to undetected infections is about 2. Note carefully too, the fascinating regional pattern of CV-19 antibody prevalence by region. At different periods of the epidemic a particular region might have the lowest or highest rate. This strongly suggests a seasonal effect. The south had the lowest rate going into summer, which helps explain the recent wave there. (JAMA Article)
This study from Singapore compares features of the various dominant strains through the epidemic. (JID Article) The study compared Alpha, Beta, and Delta. (Beta was the black sheep of the family, never did live up to its terroristic hype.). Relatively small numbers of patients with Beta and Delta and small numbers of measured events like ICU use or death; and appears that sampling occurred at different points in the wave. Compared to the original primary strain, Delta was said to require more use of oxygen and the ICU and to result in greater likelihood of death. Given the extremely small number of events, in the single digits, I don’t know how they reach that conclusion. But what is most interesting is that neither Alpha nor Beta, which have exhausted their moment in the sun, were found to have any significant difference from the original strain. When they first arrived on the scene we saw the exact same research claiming they were more severe and more transmissible. That article I encouraged you to read earlier in the week on Delta transmissibility gave the exact explanation for this finding and is the reason why you shouldn’t trust assumptions about characteristics from earlier in the appearance of a strain.
Researchers are beginning to look at why some people get infected after vaccination. Now I know why, it is the same reasons some people are more susceptible in the first place–they are old and frail or they are obese. The design is somewhat odd, given what they are trying to ascertain. They examine a cohort that became infected after their first dose, a group that became infected after their second dose, and two matched groups that had a similar vaccination pattern but a negative PCR test in the followup period and two matched groups who were unvaxed but had a positive test. The researchers excluded persons with a prior positive PCR test, but did not test for prior infection by evaluating antibody status, so as far as I am concerned that makes this a botched study. And they were using timelines after vax that no one considers to result in full adaptive immunity. The results: sure enough, being frail and old and being obese were the primary factors leading to infection after vax. Those who were infected after vax were less likely to be hospitalized and had fewer symptoms. (Lancet Study)
Here is a simple study, is being fat associated with a lesser response to vaccination? According to these researchers in Japan (I just want to note, leaving aside Sumo wrestlers, there aren’t a lot of obese people in Japan) among the cohort of health agency employees included in the study, being overweight was linked to a lesser response among men but not women. Go figure. The world is full of discrimination against men currently, so why should the virus be any different. (Medrxiv Paper)
Israel got a lot of people vaccinated early, so much of the population has a pretty long followup after vax. Naturally the country becomes a locus for research on vaccine effectiveness, over time. This study examined health care workers for up to 60 days post vax, and comes from the Alpha period, so it is dated, but it found strong antibody levels and good effectiveness against infection at the time. It was a prospective study with a good design, but unfortunately subsequent events may have mooted the findings. (Medrxiv Paper)
This study purported to examine the effect of 105 separate biological, meteorological, demographic and behavioral factors on CV-19 infection and serious disease. I am just telling you that you can not do a good study that attempts to assess that many factors simultaneously. Nonetheless the authors say that just by looking at around 5000 people who completed an internet survey (have I mentioned that this self-reported survey data is generally considered highly suspect) in the Czech Republic they have come up with the answers. The found 13 factors that were associated with increased risk, including being male, younger (younger, really, there isn’t a shred of evidence to support that in the real world), belonging to blood group B and living in a larger household. They found 16 that were associated with lower risk, including borreliosis (Lyme’s disease) in the past, drinking something called rooibos (it is an African tea, how many people are drinking that?), using vitamin D and, drum roll please, mask wearing. Now I just have to note, unfortunately, that researchers have established that people lie in surveys about their mask-wearing behavior. I think this is a prank study. Or at least a crank one. (Medrxiv Paper)